V. Berba Velasco Jr., Ph.D.
It may seem comical, but it’s a surprisingly common situation. I’ve encountered many companies that don’t provide any user manuals with their products. If they do, their manuals are often horribly incoherent, or else years out of date. It shouldn’t happen, but it happens all the time.
Now, this problem is less common when buying off-the-shelf software or consumer electronics. That’s because these products typically come from large corporations that pay attention to such details. Among smaller engineering firms though, this is a frequent occurrence. In fact, I’d estimate that about half of the small engineering companies that I’ve encountered are guilty of this offense.
I remember how one engineer told me why his company didn’t provide any user manuals with their products. In hushed tones, he said, “It’s because we don’t make any money by writing manuals. It’s not a money-making venture, so our management doesn’t want to waste time on this.” An annoyed expression crept into his face, then he leaned closer and said, “We have lost so many customers because we don’t have decent documentation. Talk about being penny-wise, pound-foolish!”